Understanding The H.N.I.C.
Together, they discuss Prodigys latest solo effort with insight that only his closest collaborators could provide. Although Queensbridge rappers are known for internal strife, on this occasion they put all past tensions behind them. Cormega and Noyd speak candidly about their views on some of Ps recent comments critiquing other artists. Proteges Un Pacino and Nyce defend Ps position with reverence, and Havoc and Alchemist reflect on Mobb Deeps legacy. When speaking about his new project, featuring both a characteristic gloominess and a more pronounced focus on dropping jewels, the praise is unanimous.
HipHopDX: What was it like recording with Prodigy before he went in to do this bid?
Un Pacino: Oh, it was crazy. It was good because he wasnt really that stressed. I would tell him not to let it worry him, you been through a lot you can get through this. And when you get through this, its the ultimate, because youve been tested in all walks of life. People expected P to fail at a lot of things that he did, but thats why I liked him, because he always overcame everything- sickle cell, people that was trying to get at him- so it was like he was on top and he always made you look stupid.
Alchemist: It was funny that the last few months before he went in, he didnt do too much recording. He was more in video mode; he was just shooting videos everyday. I think with music in general, were so ahead of the time. Whatever beats are on Ps album, we probably were working on at least two years ago, were used to having this delay. But it was more like, Let me get this video shot, he shot a video for every song, so that was dope. Until the last day, that was dope.
DX: Mega, given that you have done some hard time, did you have any advice for P as he was preparing to go in for these 3 years?
Cormega: I just told him to hold his head, cause our situations are different. A lot of rappers go to jail. I didnt become a rapper to go to jail, I went to jail before I was a rapper. The average artist thats going to jail, they going to get preferential treatment, or they going to keep you away from population. I was with the killers and dealers, I was in population. I dont think they gonna put Prodigy in population. I told him to hold his head, hit the books and dont focus on that shit. Just focus on what he gotta do.
DX: Do you think the bid had a significant impact on him creatively?
Alchemist: I dont think so, I just think hes taking some time to reflect. I dont think hes going to come out like a different P. Ps too stubborn for that, hes going to stick to his guns. To be honest, he might be in there writing scripts and rhymes. I think hes just chilling, reading. I dont think he wants to waste that good energy. Thats like someone whos young who goes to jail for six years, and they cant wait to come home, they have 1,000 rhymes. He doesnt have to do that, hes got endless records. I think hes just getting his mind right, hes just getting a little older and wiser, but we all will be when he comes home.
DX: It seems that since his case, Prodigy has really been focusing a lot more on Illuminati, secret society themes, expressing his views on the world order and dropping jewels in his music. What do you think about that direction?
Cormega: Prodigy been talking about Illuminati. If you listen to I Shot Ya, the remix with Fat Joe and all them, he said, Illuminati got my mind soul and body, that was over 10 years ago. Its good that hes taking it somewhere else, because maybe from there he could alter rap a little bit. A lot of times, conscious rappers expand the minds of other people. He might expand the mind of some younger rappers, the same way KRS-ONE made people want to get knowledge and talk about it, and Chuck D did it. So hopefully, some of the stuff hes saying will cause other people to get creative with it, instead of everybody talking about, I sell drugs and I shoot people. At least hes talking something different, so I respect that.
Alchemist: He was going through different periods in life, things were happening. And I dont know if it was directly related to the jail bid, but he been doing a lot of studying lately, even before the whole situation. From YouTube, being able to access shit that he had already read before, he was studying a lot of stuff. And I think he had been feeling like, Yo I gotta put this out, because thats something that he had done from day one. And maybe during the course he strayed off, and he always felt like he had a responsibility to do that. I see it a lot more now which is cool, cause it seems like people like that side of him thats like, Fuck it, my chain hang to the street. Because he got both of those sides, just like all people. I can vouch for that, we all go through different changes in life; we lean to one side or the other. Ps extreme, so he leans from one extreme to another.
Nyce: I mean you know its a good thing for him because his mind is on another time zone, his mind is in the future. He already lived the fast life, had jewelry, had tons of cars, he done did it all. So now hes getting educated, hes sharpening his brain. So yeah, thats definitely a good step for him, cause we need more idols like that, more people to look up to like that.
DX: On H.N.I.C. 1, he put that quote from Menace II Society about kicking knowledge
Alchemist: Even on this album, if you notice, it comes out: Fuck jewelry, fuck rims, the next song is Heavy on the wrist, heavy on the chain. And I noted that to P, You sure you wanna do this?" And he said, "Yeah I do, Im conscious of that, because thats how a human being is. I dont wanna drop a whole album thats a paranoia album, cause this record is still about entertainment." So he knew what he was doing. He knew there were subtle contradictions, he understood that. And I understand what hes saying.
DX: What do you think this situation has done for QB as a whole, has it brought more unity?
Big Noyd: I think its the same issues going on, I dont think it will really change anything as far as us. As far as the fans, they might enjoy it more to see Mobb Deep and Noyd together. As far as personal stuff, people grown now, its not a situation where you young, you fight, you break up. By the same token, hopefully the fans show us, Y'all better together than divided, so hopefully that happens.
Cormega: The way I see it, Im trying to be cool with everybody, man. Its a different day, man. You grow older or you grow wiser, or you grow to either appreciate people or get away from people. But at the end of the day, I always respected P, so when he hollad at me to get on the album, it was nothing, because I always respected him and Havoc as artists. Whatever differences niggas have, at the end of the day we are musicians. Me and Mobb Deep, the songs that weve done previously speak for themselves. So at the end of the day, if you an artist of a certain caliber and you got a grudge with another artist, if people used to hearing yall together youre not hurting anybody but yourself, cause youre doing your fans a disservice.
DX: It sounds like P feels like he has a lot to prove these days. What do you think about him defending his legacy so much?
Havoc: I mean thats just how he feel and its all good. Me, personally, I dont give a fuck. My legacy is with me, as long as I do good by me and I make some people appreciate it, then its all fine with me. I dont give a fuck either way.
Big Noyd: You know I love him to death, so if I say this I dont think he would take it out of context. I think that hes focusing more on trying to prove to the people what hes worth, more than just making songs and doing him. Because I think that shines a little bit more, thats just my opinion. He been through so much controversy, hes a controversy dude, with the Jay-Z shit and the Nas shit. He trying to show these niggas hands down hes one of the fucking best. I think itd shine more if he just forgot about that and just make some great songs.
DX: Prodigy has also been breaking down how he feels about a lot of rappers, what do you think about him airing out his opinions on people like Jay Z and Fat Joe?
Big Noyd: I think thats what separates the H.N.I.C. album from regular Mobb Deep albums. He probably wouldnt say certain things that he feels personally, cause he dont wanna cause Havoc no conflicts. But with his solo album he able to do that, he can let the world know how he feel. Even though he know we got his back regardless, he taking more responsibility on himself to do that on his solo project. P always gonna speak his mind. Whenever he say something its genuine, its not just to make sales or boost credibility. If he say it, he means it, thats the type of dude he is.
Cormega: I respect his honesty, but sometimes I be thinking P is crazy, cause at the end of the day, certain things are better kept to yourself. But I cant tell another grown man what to do. At the end of the day, what good is it going to do? I know some peoples feelings were hurt, like Fat Joe, his feelings was hurt. He said, I thought we were cooler than that, but it is what it is, he speaking his mind
DX: To what extent is the affiliation with G-Unit furthering the Mobbs career?
Havoc: It is what it is. Ima always do music. I been doing music, and Ima continue to do music. Music is my life, among other things.
Nyce: I mean as far as G-Unit go, its always a family. G-Unit dont just represent three artists: Banks, [Tony Yayo] and [50 Cent], you know? It also represents everybody.
DX: No Buck?
Nyce: Yeah, Buck tried to buck, but hes no longer there. Its a whole family, and its always going to be like that. G-Unit has been built on being a family, so we keep it that way. But everybody branch off and do their own thing after a while.
DX: What do you think of the album and how Prodigy is coming lyrically? Does he bring the old P back?
Un Pacino: Yeah, that old P. During the whole album, he would hear it from everybody like, You gotta bring that old P back! And I guess thats why he was talking about so many people doubting him, like he couldnt do it. He did it. He got a lot of strong songs on the album that mean something.
Nyce: Yeah, he definitely did, because he realized it was time. Now is time to do it, cause a lot of music thats coming out right now, it dont cater to Hip Hop. Now, its a lot of crossover music and expanding, and its not a bad thing. He felt like it was time to leave his mark as one of those dudes, one of the streets type of dudes, infamous. Its always been like that, and he keeps it moving like that.
Cormega: One thing about me, I be honest about everything. I didnt hear the whole album, so Im not gonna front, I heard half of it. One day we were in the studio fucking around, and he said, I want you to hear the album, so he plays the intro- that shit blew me away. The atmosphere of it is just different from whats going on right now. So I was taken by that, and a few of the other songs right after that, I was blown away. After I left the studio I was hype, it made me want to write. So I knew it was a good album, cause it inspired me. And I been listening to a lot of people lately, and there are lot of albums I didnt buy, that I didnt even listen to because I wasnt interested. But Ps album- theres something about it. Its real edgy and gritty, and thats what raps been missing.
Alchemist: He did it, I mean look, if you dont like P right now, you probably never liked him. Some people might say Alchemist beats were better in 2000, I like some of my beats that were better in 2000 too. Sometimes I listen to some of Ps old songs and theyre great, but if you love somebody as an artist, you move with him and you respect where hes at now. It aint the '80s, it aint the '90s no more, it aint like the good old days ever. Some people get stuck in the past. I dont think he has shit to prove. You could pop in any Mobb Deep album ever, that motherfucka was having his way with it. If you dont like him you dont like him, it is what it is
Havoc: I love it. I like everything that P do. Im excited about it, cant wait for it to drop, Im behind him all the way.